Both Zelda and I have come to the point in our New York lives where we consider Brooklyn home. This isn’t just a temporary sojourn anymore; we live here. And while I know Kentucky will always be home-home, there’s definitely been a shift in how we think about things. This Home Away from Home series is more about places in the city that are there for me, that are a meeting place for the family of friends that I’ve managed to acquire here…basically just a series of my favorite bars. These are the bars that have become a safe haven and a warm welcome in the cold winter. And why shouldn’t my not-home homes be bars? There’s something really great about being a regular at a bar and how a particular barstool or table can become just as comfortable as your sofa at home.
I’m no stranger to being a regular, but I’ve left my once-a-week sojourns to The Sampler and The Way Station behind this past year. There are a lot of reasons; money is one of them, but time is the main reason. Having a full-time job, despite the extra income, has actually decreased my happy hour attendance. My work commute no longer takes me past my regular bar, and that in itself is a reason for my decreased attendance. And having to be at work on Mondays has severely decreased the regularity of karaoke for my whole group of friends. I’ll always love those places, though, and they’ll always be a second home, whether I’m there once a week or once a quarter.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t find new places, new corners to take me in as I establish my home here in Brooklyn. To tell the tale of how the south Brooklyn bar Hinterlands became one of my homes away from home, I have to go back to last summer.
Last June, friends-of-the-blog Sarah and Jason encouraged me to listen to the My Brother, My Brother and Me podcast. In listening to all 300+ episodes, I found a deep love for the McElroy family and their comedic stylings; so, like the obsessive consumer I am, I branched out into other podcasts on their network, Maximum Fun. There’s a lot there, and my then-new job gave me a lot of time sit and stare at computers while people made jokes in my headphones.
These podcasts led me to a fan group on Facebook: all people who shared my sense of humor and values and were geographically located in my area! How convenient. As we’ve lamented, it’s hard making friends as an adult. I never thought meet-up groups would be a thing for me, but here we are. We karaoke once a month, we do bar crawls, we host board game nights, and we do it all at Hinterlands.
Last Summer, The Flop House podcast co-host, Stuart Wellington, and his wife Sharlene opened Hinterlands. His podcast being on the MaxFun network, it sort of became a haven for a lot of us — myself, Sarah, and Jason in particular since it’s so close to their apartment, which means I have an automatic place to crash. But the thing that makes it a home-away-from-home is that it’s a place that I feel safe being me. I’ve had more open and honest conversations sitting in that bar than anywhere else in the past year. In a corner, I’ve conversed about politics and social issues in the south. At those barstools, I watched the Pokémon Go craze begin. On the back patio, I’ve cried about the election results. I’ve celebrated marriages and jobs and birthdays. I’ve sat in the back room with twenty other people and yelled about Nick’s terrible decisions on the most recent iteration of The Bachelor.
The older I get, the more I realize I don’t have to be a certain way or do certain things to impress people or to fit in. I’ve tried to stop worrying what others think so much (tried being key — I’m an INFP, so I can’t give it up totally). Doing that successfully has a lot to do with the environment. At Hinterlands, I don’t have to impress anyone. Fitting in is showing up and being willing to appreciate the snozzberries taste like snozzberries wallpaper and the subtle role-playing game-themed decor. That’s all it takes. And you’re home.